The Lowline

I first heard of the Lowline many years ago when Dan Barasch and James Ramsey came to talk to me about their vision. In true NY fashion, they have been plugging away at this for years and progress has been made.  The Lowline, located on the Lower East Side, plans to transform an abandoned underground trolley station into a garden and community space.

It will definitely be a one-of-a-kind underground park.  It used to be a place where kids would go and party.  I know because all of our kids have been down there.

The process to build a space around community dreams is not seamless.  You can’t get anything built like this without getting community buy-in and that means townhall meetings in schools, getting so many signatures on petitions etc.  It takes years and years and years.
Technology has finally come to constructing new spaces.  CoUrbanize is an online platform for developing real estate projects.  It is an amazing way of hearing everyone’s voice in the community and disseminating information out.  CoUrbanize is leading the charge to help build the Lowline.
People from all over the LES have been contributing ideas on the coUrbanize site, at community workshops, and most recently, via text message.  The information also continues online in three different languages.
There are Signs placed in parks that invite people to share their vision for the Lowline. Text messages post to the project page just like online comments.  People are suggesting amazing things — acoustic concerts, gardening classes, a roller derby, a salt cave… you name it.  This type of response and collaboration would never happen without technology.  Someone might yell something out at a town hall meeting but it doesn’t get captured in a place where others can comment and add to the thoughts.  This technology really creates a community around new projects because it gives every voice and a chance to speak and because of this, the Lowline is shaping up to be something special for everyone, no matter their age, background, or income.
It was founded by an MIT planning school grad, Karin Brandt.  In Karin’s experience, online participation results in richer feedback and quicker consensus.  I met Karin when she was just building her company.  As someone who has had their finger in construction, I loved what she is doing and invested early on.  I have seen this technology bring a community together over a project instead of pulling one apart.  I have also seen buildings taking heed to what the community says and get a building in the ground in much less time.  It is a win for everyone.
Take a look at the project online.  The public input process wraps up this June, and the Lowline is eyeing an opening date in 2021.